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A Bite of the Apple – and a bit more

November 12, 2018
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I know it’s been a while since I’ve turned my thoughts to updating this blog. A lot of water has gone under the bridge both literally and figuratively.

In summer we never made if further north on the east coast of the US than Long Island Sound; specifically, Port Washington which became our summer home for the months of part of July, August and the beginning of September. We spent most of our time tied to a mooring ball in Port Washington. Port Washington is one of the most yacht friendly harbours in the whole of Long Island Sound. It’s protected, it’s safe, has easy access to shops and it is one of the terminuses of the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR). The LIRR provides a 40 minute ride into Penn Station in the heart of New York.

We didn’t stay on the boat long as we had secured a 10 day house sit in Hudson Heights through Trusted Housesitters . Along with the house sit came two cats to tend to but apart from feeding and talking to them we were free to explore New York. It’s hard to comprehend the variety of things to do in New York as the summertime provides an incredible array of special events both free and paid

A few of the highlights of New York included seeing Vieux Farke Toure on the Blues BBQ (free),

seeing the Klimt painting of the Woman in Gold, spending the day in the Metropolitan Museum which had an amazing display on the arts of Oceania (as well as so much more), a night spent at Barbes listening to great music and scoring some tickets for the Lion King (for which we also got a personal tour of the backstage after the performance through an Annapolis connection). We could have easily spent another week in New York just wandering the streets

These were just a few of the highlights. There is so much more to see in New York and yet we only scratched the surface. I would love to go back but only after I find a little more gold on a beach.

Here are a few photo highlights you might enjoy. As I stated at the beginning we’re heading south to avoid the oncoming winter onslaught. The thought of winter makes my toes tingle but that’s not from excitement but rather from the thought of frostbite

Now it’s November, Sage is safely tucked away on dry land in Norfolk and we are temporarily in Ontario staving off the onslaught of winter which I am sure will hit us before we leave for points south in early December.

So, instead of long stories I’m posting a few photos and trying for a little sequence of our movements over the summer.

More on New York

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Central Park looking east

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Pacific section of the Metropolitan Museum of Art – spectacular exhibition of Oceania art

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Couldn’t resist a picture of the Chelsea Hotel – once the home of people like Patti Smith, Mapplethorpe etc and made famous in song by Leonard Cohen

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9/11 – a beautiful memorial to those taken down in the twin towers. Very moving

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From here it was dancing the latin beat on the street in the afternoon. Always things to do in NY

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Yes these carts are everywhere around the city but only tried once and never again!

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One of the access points to the Highline – a converted railway track to a walking path through Chelsea

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Always adding space to an already dense space

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And always murals

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Our last night spent in NY before heading south

Our only fall schedule was to be in Annapolis first forthe Ocean Cruising Club’s fall dinner followed by the Annapolis Boat show on the first weekend of October.

The picture below is of a style of boat which is making it’s debut on the retail market after creating a sensation in the last America’s Cup and on the international racing circuits in the last year. Foils seem to be the latest innovation in sailing and it will be interesting to see what mark they are going to make.

Below is a photo grid showing just a few of the people we got to meet over the summer. We had a great time and wish I only had more pictures of the many people we met but the camera hasn’t been pulled out that often!

New York, New York

August 11, 2018

No, I’m not about to start singing:

New York, New York
Start spreading the news
You’re leaving today (tell him friend)
I want to be a part of it, New York, New York
Your vagabond shoes, they are longing to stray
And steps around the heart of it, New York, New York

However, I will say we were energized having reached our most northely limit for this sailing season.

We scooted around Sandy Hook in the dark with a nice south west wind. Threading our way amongst all the major navigational buoys out in Lower Bay we headed up Ambrose Channel finally entering New York Harbour. Lower Bay isn’t exactly an exotic sounding or exciting name but that didn’t matter we had arrived.

Approaching the Verrazano Bridge in the ealy morning hours

The Verrazano Bridge was looking like gold as we crossed Lower Bay and into Ambrosse Channel, sailing past the lighted buoys that once marked the infamous Ambrose Lightship which is now located on the East River and used to attract tourists. From the bridge we could make out in the early dawn the Statue of Liberty beckoning us towards the anchorage.

We struggled against the outgoing current for what seemed hours eventually entering the channel behind the Statue of Liberty and an unprotected anchorage. I say unprotected as it’s not the weather that’s a problem but rather the day time boat traffic the plys New York’s waterways setting up a wave pattern that discourages one from staying for more than 24 hours.

There we were , staring at the ass end of the Statue of Liberty for 24 hours

All joking aside this was an amazing anchorage. Although we weren’t looking at the front of the Statue of Liberty we did have an incredible view of both the statue and the skyline of lower Manhatten. It was spectacular at night with the Statue lit up and the view of Manhatten in all its glory.

Manhatten skyline at sunset

The motion in the anchorage wasn’t cooperating making it very difficult to get a good later afternoon or evening picture of the skyline. We sat out on deck drinking champagne like everyone on luxury yachts does every night. We toasted our success in making it this far and felt pretty happy with ourselves.

Early the next morning just before sunrise I had to get up early to the ‘call-of-the-bladder’. Staggering outside without my glasses (or clothes) made the landscape seem like an impressionist’s painting – all a blur of bright lighted dots. As I peed (which is illegal) over the side I tried to focus on what was in front of me. I finally realized that what was not that far away was a cruise ship sailing close in to the Statue of Liberty. I then saw all these popping lights and realized that all these people were on deck, pleased to be entering New York harbour at dawn, taking flash photos of the Statue of Liberty. Little did they know until they got home to look at their pictures that there was strange man on a luxury yacht hanging something over the side! Well, sorry people but some things just happen by accident and are not planned to ruin holidays or pictures!

After that we thought it best we leave as fast as we could and scoot out of the anchorage and take advantage of the flood tide up the east river.

Heading out of the anchorage and over towards Lower Manhatten and the East River

Just to prove we saw the front of the Statue of Liberty

If you ever go to New York, and you don’t have a luxury yacht like ours, make sure you take a tour up the East River. It was spectacular. All New York in its glory to see with helicopters circling overhead bringing tourists and businessmen into town, bridges with screeching railway cars crossing the Brooklyn Bridge, tourist and commecial boats and ferries stirring up the water and best of all the skyscrapers reaching up into the sky in all their glittering windows and steel.

This is definitely not the idyllic scenes people usually associate with sailing complete with tropical sandy beaches, swaying palm trees and pina coladas. This is raw power – the centre of finances running amok, the energy of millions of people on the move, art pushing the limits and a position in the world second to none.

We went up the east river to escape the unaffordable marina rates of NewYork. On a nightly basis costs at a dock start at $3/foot and rising to above $4/foot. We were looking for an anchorage and had been told about Port Washington which is at the south end of Long Island Sound. It’s the last stop on the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR)

which would be great for us as it would be a way in which we could access central New York. Having caught the flood tide for the East River we idled at 1,000rpm and were still doing 7.5-8knots along the river as we passed the east shore of Manhattan. It was an exhilirating ride and later, as we head south, be another chance to see Manhattan from the water.

For the time being we are in Port Washington. We’ve already made one foray into the Big Apple and next week will be house sitting for someone in Manhattan for a week. This will give us lots of time to explore the city and have a long awaited hit of theatre, movies, music, food etc.

In the meantime we sit in Port Washington taking shelter from the heat (up to 36C), hide from the thunderstorms, huddle below to hide from extreme lightening and try to stay dry under the deluge of excessive rains.

To keep me from going crazy by the lightening I took to reading David Sedaris’ new book called Calypso and I leave you now with an except from the book which is a story about his sister who is taking medicatication which has the side effect of making her sleepwalk.

“One morning a few weeks after Thanksgiving, she walked into her kitchen in North Carolia and found on the countertop an open jam jar with crumbs in it. At first she thought they were from a cookie. Then she saw the overturned box and realized she had eaten something intended for her painted turtles. It was a nutrition bar, maybe four inches long and made of dead flies, pressed together the way Duraflame logs are. “Not only that,” she said “but when I was through, I ate all the petals off my poinsetta.” She shook her head. ” I noticed it on the counter next to the turtle food box, and it was just a naked stalk.”

Back to Sea

July 27, 2018

“Travelling is not just seeing the new; it’s also leaving behind. Not just opening doors; also closing them behind you, never to return. But the place you have left forever is always there for you to see whenever you shut your eyes.”

Jan Myrdal

Why is it we travel? Certainly it’s not because we crave creature comforts. There are certainly very few creature comforts spent in a 250 square foot space (that’s probably overstating the space we have onboard). The constant attention to keeping a boat in good enough shape to cross an ocean safetly wears one down but then I think it’s better than having to go out and cut the grass!

So, we’re headed out to sea having gone up the Chesapeake and then down the Delaware River to Cape May.

Cape May viewed from the Delaware River

Above is Cape May as we approach from the west and see the Atlantic once again. We’ve motored a lot in the east coast and this was no exeception. We motorsailed down the Delaware from the Chesapeake- Delaware Canal, a 45 mile jaunt with currents to fight all the way, or, if you’re lucky, you get to use the currents in your favour. For us we had a little of both; the current against us and the current behind us.

With fading light and fading winds we pulled into Cape May and anchored….

Rounding Cape May

Trying to re-power Sage

July 21, 2018

Trying to figure out how to repower Sage and thought that this would be a great array on Sage’s stern.

The answer to no wind on the Chesapeake!

Chesapeake White Caps

July 16, 2018

I think the only white caps we’ve seen on the Chesapeake are those created by powerboats, water skiers, sea dos or kids rollicking in the water. There hasn’t been enough wind here to cause much wave action.

When there is some wind, the waves set up by the hundreds of thousands of motorboats cause the wind to spill out of the sails and the wake throws us 20 degrees off course and limits forward progress. Then one starts to sail again but within minutes another powerboat roars by. The other day we anchored in Annapolis for 2 nights and the water was so disturbed from the movement of powerboats that we had to stay ashore during the day returning in the evening when the motion was livable.

I can’t recommend the Chesapeake as a long distance sailor’s destination. The water is very silty, the anchorages close to towns have very little in the way of services with shopping centres located miles from town. The water is usually very shallow and the towns are located up long inlets. The one last item to mention is the abysmal public transportation – here’s a story (link) to shake your head at re: public transportation.

Yes, there’s lots of history onshore to discover – if you can get transportation – very friendly people, great crab cakes, yacht services galore, marinas up the yin yang and lots of arts and crafts.

In retrospect it’s a great place to sail to, leave your boat in a marina or on the hard and travel overland. We left our boat in Almshouse Creek with Westbrook and Cindy. Using Trustedhousesitters.com we managed to find an apartment with 2 cats to housesit for a week in Washington DC. It was a great experience, the condo well located to public transportation and in an interesting area called Columbia Heights. For a week we wandered around Washington, visiting museums (all free), testing restaurants, saying hello to Donald (don’t get me going), dancing the nights away in an African bar, wandering through neighbourhoods and joining in on July 4th celebrations on the Mall.

At present we are headed to the Chesapeake-Delaware canal and crossing over from the Chesapeake to the Delaware river and then north to New York. If you have any spare wind please send it our way.

A few photos

We joined an Ocean Cruising Club rally and this was the ‘dinghy drift’ on our last evening

Our generous hosts on Almshouse Creek – Westbrook and Cindy

Almshouse Creek

Connie attending to the painting details

Seen out front of the White House – need I say more

The Renwick Gallery Washington – The Art of Burning Man

Renwick Gallery

A replica of one of the ‘burning man’ temples which are burned at the end of the festival

One of Washington’s newest museums – African-American museum. A beautiful building with an incredible exhibition on slavery from the beginnings up to modern times

The Vietnam memorial. Simple, exquisite, moving…

July 4th on the mall with entertainment, fireworks and buckets of patriotism

Despite the cold, austere and unwelcoming feeling of the Canadian embassy nothing can beat the amazing Bill Reid bronze from the Pacific North West – made me homesick

Finally my next ship – oh to ride the waves in a ship like this

ICW and the Chesapeake

July 11, 2018

Wow, I guess time has moved very quickly as I see I have not written anything on my blog in over 2 months. Not only has time flown by but there has been quite a bit of water that has drifted by the keel. Those miles are not the miles achieved offshore but rather slowly accumulated mostly under power.

Having been caught offshore of Southport, NC by virtually no wind we motored our way the last 100 miles and since Southport have had very little sailing. Connie refutes this claiming that we sailed 40% of the ICW but by my reckoning most of that was motor sailing i.e. with what little wind being from the south I would raise the drifter and pretend to sail along the ICW. The reality being that the sail did little to move us along and the engine really accomplished the virtual sail.

Yes, we went all the way up the ICW from Southport NC to Norfolk VA. I can’t say I would do it again but in many respects it was very interesting. We usually only made 25 miles/day as I couldn’t stand the motor any longer. That was OK as we stopped at some beautiful spots while other boats roared by trying to motor a minimum of at least 60 miles/day.

Lots of opportunities to launch the kayak and paddle some of the backwaters if the ICW 

The ICW meanders its way north through mostly man-made cuts intersecting the low-lying lands. There are some occasional open areas but one cannot stray off the channel which is generally wide enough for two boats to pass each other going in opposite directions. It may be enticing to wander off the channel to explore what may be beckoning but with most off-channel areas being less than 5 feet Sage cannot risk drifting off the marked channel.

Home Sweet Home

                                                        Dinner on the fly

There’s no relaxing when moving along the channel. To take your eyes off the channel risks either wandering off to the sides and going aground or colliding with another boat. One must follow the markers and each one is numbered. Each one also has a resident osprey who screeches at all the boats to keep them away from the nests.

           What – this one must be on a trailer being pulled along the road

There is never any problem pulling over and anchoring along the ICW. Most parts of the edges of the channel allow boats enough depth to pull off and anchor out-of-the-way of moving traffic especially if one anchors bow and stern. Otherwise there are lots of areas for anchoring off in side bays and outside of the markers. In the picture above we are anchored in quite a large bay (enough for 15 boats) where the main channel allows others to keep on moving.

Calm yes but it’s the calm before the storm. Just another wild summer lightning storm arriving with buckets of rain. Never have had problems collecting enough rain for the tanks

Most traffic along the ICW is recreational. There are few commercial barges in active service but one always has to be ready to make way for them. In the one and only lock we went through we were placed in between the walls of the lock and a barge. Everything moved like clockwork and the workers helping maneuver the boats knew exactly what they were doing in the Great Bridge Lock just south of Norfolk.

The barge to starboard and the concrete lock wall to port. Not too much room to maneuver

Being the one and only lock we went through I can’t say there are many more on the ICW. But there are lots of bridges. Most of the bridges have a 65 foot clearance but if they don’t then they are staffed and generally are swing and/or lift bridges which open on demand or on the 1/2 hour or hour.

Just don’t swing that shut when I am halfway through

There’s one other hazard on the ICW. We anchored for the night in Hammock Bay, NC. It’s actually part of Camp Le Jeune a Marine Base. For most of the afternoon noise of the airborne death jets scream overhead from the local airbase. The sonic sreams silence the natural sounds of lapping water in the anchorage. The might of America is on display.

The next day we continue up the ICW and come to a large sign indicating a firing range which crosses the ICW and the large traffic lights let you know if it’s safe to proceed for the next 5 miles. The light was green. It was eerie – on both sides of the ICW one could see the military had planted derelict tanks, planes etc to use for target practice. They were all riddled with bullet holes and missing sections. The wildlife was incredible but all I could think of is what does the wildlife do when they are caught in the crossfire of the firing range?

No longer an APC (armoured personnel carrier)

This was our first sighting of the US military might but it wasn’t the last. Norfolk was not far up the ICW. If you ever want to be impressed by military strength then Norfolk is the place to go. It has the largest naval base in the world.

The ICW enters the Chesapeake at Norfolk. The lock is just south of Norfolk and once out of the lock the navy makes its presence known. I think, as we went through Norfolk, we saw 4 aircraft carriers; not the biggest ones but large enough to make one quake at the fire power.

USS Wisconsin — a WWII destroyer – just a small ship by today’s standards

After a few days in Norfolk getting some much-needed supplies and getting a little culture (Chrysler Museum) it was time to head out into the Chesapeake.

Part of the Chrysler Museum’s glass collection of Tiffany lamps

The Chesapeake is a vast low-lying collection of rivers and inlets with very little rising more than 15 metres above sea level. It’s shallow making it arduous as it takes a while to get out into the open water and into enough depth to more north. Then when one comes to the end of the journey one has to spend another 1-2 hours motoring up a river or inlet to get to an anchorage or town.

The towns are tiny and services very limited. Those towns we do visit don’t even have a grocery store within a couple of miles so it’s always a struggle to replenish stores.

Our only schedule for the season was to join the Ocean Cruising Club (OCC) rally in Reedville. We’re recent members and joined as we thought it would be a good way meet people on the NE coast of the US. It’s proved to be well worth while and the 4 day rally was our first connection with an OCC sponsored event. 4 days spent together with almost 30 boats visiting Reedville, St. Mary’s and Leonardtown.

Only a few of those boats that joined the rally

The end of the rally saw us 1/4 of the way up the Potomac. Instead of going all the way to Washington DC we went back out the Potomac and north to Annapolis and here we are….

Welcome Back to America

May 14, 2018

It’s been 8 + years since Sage has been in America. She’s almost been around the world and stopped in many wonderful places that some people would call exotic. All those different places have something special and there are many memories wrapped up in the 100s of anchorages. Despite all the amazing places Sage has been we were still excited about visiting a country close to home that much of it we haven’t seen.

The east coast is something Sage and her crew are not all that familiar with. Stories abound of the early history with the arrival of Europeans, the taking of the land, the building of the infrastructure, the conflicts and the celebrations. We on Sage were/are looking forward to poking our noses into as many little nooks and crannies that we can find.

Waving goodbye to friends as we go one way and us another

Our last Bahamian sunset. In actual fact our last tropical sunset

Our adventure began with our departure from Marsh Harbour, Bahamas. Picking a weather window was tricky as we wanted the wind predictions to solidify and give us a good 4 day window in which to get to Norfolk Virginia as we wanted to use the Inter Coastal Waterway (ICW) as little as possible.

We got flung out of Marsh Harbour like a rocket with Sage bucking over the northern swells with a NE wind in her teeth. Sage set out to the north-west on the hunt for the 4 knot north-setting gulf stream. She bucked and shot her way forward throwing water over the bows and the dodger for 36 hours at which time the wind veered to the east a little and dropped from a boisterous 20 knots to 12 knots. Ah perfect you say. However, another 24 hours later we realised the wind was dying and knew for sure that we were soon going to be windless.

Just another lazy day on one of those pristine Bahamian beaches

Windless is OK at times but it’s not OK when ensnared by the Gulf Stream. The combination of current and left over boisterous seas from a good blow are not a good mix. What little wind can be captured in the sail is quickly spilled out especially when the wind is coming from the stern. There the decision was made.

With Southport only 80 miles off the beam we headed inshore using the wind and the motor. 24 hours later and a night arrival in Southport we lay our anchor down having already gone aground first in the anchorage. No problem, reverse and slow speeds meant we got off lucky and we dropped the anchor on Provision’s (a restaurant) doorstep.

1/2 lb of shrimp with corn and chips for $US11.95 – a deal after the Caribbean and Bahamas

Welcome to America!

Wow, we actually made it. 0500hrs, a couple of hours of sleep, clear customs and immigration and we’re ready for adventures in a new (old) land.

Not to bore you with long tales of our breakdown, our arduous motor up the ICW or our suffering from the cold (!) I just want to tell you a few tales of our cultural experiences with modern-day America.

Story Number 1

In almost every country of the world hair dye is an essential product. No matter where one is you can see hundreds of varieties of black dye lining the pharmacy shelves. Of course, in America, it’s not only black but all the other colours of hair dye in the rainbow.

However, for those of you who have met Connie, she hasn’t used dye in 30 years. To let you on to a secret there was a time when she ran for political office that us back room pundits convinced her to dye her hair leaving a white streak at the front fringe. I will say it looked great. Now this didn’t last long as soon after the election she threw out the dye and went au naturel once again.

Well, in almost all countries we visited I could go shopping with Connie and have no trouble finding her no matter how big the store was. All I ever had to do was go to the head of the aisles, look down, see if I could see a white head and if not go to the next aisle until I found her. Well, in America at our first large store I did the same thing. As soon as I saw a white head I headed down the aisle and then realised no, that’s not Connie. Went to the next aisle and low and behold another NOT white-haired Connie. ‘ What’s the matter’ I thought. I can’t find Connie. Ah, I then realised that, no, people in America are not so prone to dye their hair if it’s gray.

Story #2

Just a personal thing but I hate Walmart but one day we found ourselves in a Walmart food store. It was such a huge store that I really needed a road map to find my way around. They weren’t available so using my nose I headed over to the food section. I guess Walmart is now trying to copy Costco by having food tasters in the aisles offering samples of whatever they were trying to peddle.

One food sampler table had a selection of salad with some white creamy substance floating on top. Being a friendly kind of guy I struck up a conversation with the demonstrator. She was a nice enough person to chat with but I was wondering what an 82 year old woman was doing working in Walmart. Anyway, when I asked her what she was offering she started off on a spiel and forgot what she was pushing. She had to glance down at the bottle and see what is was. She then turned back to me and started the spiel again but by the time she came to name the product she had again forgotten! We both laughed as she turned the bottle again and read the label out. I wished her a good day and turning away wondered whether she worked there to pay the rent.

Story #3

In almost every country we have visited we have purchased SIM cards for our tablets. It’s never been a problem and is an essential giving us access to communications, weather, entertainment and blog posting. However, in America everyone expects you to have a tablet registered to a particular service provider as opposed to being independent.

It took some hard negotiating to convince unknowledgeable customer care providers that yes if you sell me a SIM card I can put it into my South African cell phone and/or European tablet and make it work.

Negotiating a good deal is another matter. I have now settled, at least for my tablet, on AT&T’s unlimited data plan for $60/month. Granted there are some slow periods where they will purposely slow down the internet but generally speaking we’re doing well with what we have chosen considering I can use one tablet as a hot spot if we are each working on our respective tablets at the same time.

Unlocked tablets/phones are a godsend.

Story #4

I’ll admit to being a user of Uber. But not having been in a country where Uber operates for the last two years meant that I needed to update my Uber account. I had the log in and the password. I entered these into the system and they wouldn’t let me log in unless I could tell them the details of my last two rides with total cost and where they originated and where they ended. They also wanted my cell phone number from two years ago.

Needless to say, at my age, my memory isn’t that good and when I think about it my memory wasn’t that good when I was 20! To cut short a long agonizing contremps let me just say that 5 days later I was able to activate my account with my new number. Phew!

Story #5

This last story is also short! 48 hours prior to leaving the Bahamas we decided that we were going to be, at some time, on the ICW and that joining Boat US was a good idea.

Having entered the US at 0500hrs, cleared customs and immigration and had a 2 hour nap before we headed north on the ICW. Within miles we had unexpected problems and had to pull over and figure out how to resolve the problem. Not being successful we called Boat US. Boat US to the rescue. Within 20 minutes a tow boat was alongside and they took us back to a marina where they secured a great mechanic, Jason, who got us going in short order.

Wow! $135 membership and the tow was costed out at $250! That is value for money and we still have 11 months to go for help to be on its way.

There are too many positive things to say about being back in America. We have experienced extremely friendly people in all walks of life. Just this morning while having breakfast in a coffee shop in Swansboro, NC, we got talking to a local who told us to try the house specialty which was fruit fritters. We chose a 1/2 order of strawberry fritters and when it came to pay the bill we found that he had bought them for us. What great hospitality.

Ah, strawberry fritters

One of those great American diners with pictures of Elvis, Marilyn and James Dean and the voice of Elvis welcoming you to the women’s toilet and Marilyn to the men’s!

Services couldn’t be better. What a change from the Caribbean to walk into a place where they greet one in a friendly manner, make sure they offer whatever help they can and make sure when you leave you are genuinely satisfied. It happens everywhere and I can’t say enough of how genuine they are and how pleasing it is to experience.